Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Minn. Man Files Appeal in Free-speech Case Against National Parks

May 15, 2009, 1:28 pm

A Christian legal group is appealing a federal judge's ruling that found Mount Rushmore National Memorial officials did not violate a Minnesota man's free-speech rights when they required him to get a permit before distributing religious materials at the memorial.

Michael Boardley of Coon Rapids, Minn., sued the U.S. Interior Department, National Park Service and five federal officials in November 2007 after he was told he would need a permit to distribute gospel tracts at the monument that features the faces of four presidents carved into the granite of a Black Hills mountain in western South Dakota. Boardley said he later applied for a permit, but did not get one until after he filed the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson of Washington, D.C., ruled March 17 in favor of the federal agencies and officials, saying Mount Rushmore did not violate Boardley's constitutional rights. But the judge struck down one phrase in National Park Service regulations dealing with permits because the phrase is unconstitutionally vague and gives officials too much discretion.

Lawyer Heather Gebelin Hacker of the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Boardley, said yesterday that the group had asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review Robertson's ruling. The appeal will focus on the requirement that individuals and small groups have to get permits, she said.